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Smart Procurement

27. Mr. Blunt: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if the type-45 destroyer programme is consistent with the smart procurement programme; and if he will make a statement. [152724]

Dr. Moonie: The type-45 programme is taking full advantage of the principles of the smart procurement initiative now termed smart acquisition. This is amply demonstrated by:

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A deliberate choice was made to include significant growth margins in the design, as well as better accommodation for the crew. This means that the ship can be modified to meet emerging future requirements more readily and cheaply.

Warship Building

28. Mr. Syms: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on warship building in the UK. [152725]

Dr. Moonie: The strategic defence review announced the largest warship-building programme for many years amounting to over 30 major vessels. It remains Government policy that all warships for the Royal Navy will continue to be built in the UK. This commitment, together with the size of our forward programme, offers a platform for UK Industry to plan ahead and modernise. This in turn will allow them to improve their competitiveness for naval export orders, and in competing for the commercial opportunities that are essential if the existing capacity is to be maintained or enhanced.

In the last nine months, this Government have placed orders for two survey vessels with Vosper Thornycroft (UK) Ltd. and announced the company as the preferred bidder for the provision of three offshore patrol vessels; a prime contract for the design and build of the first three type-45 destroyers was placed with BAE Systems Electronics; and we have ordered the design and build of two alternative landing ships logistic from Swan Hunter (Tyneside) Ltd. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence has also announced that, subject to satisfactory terms and conditions being negotiated, the BAE Systems Marine yard at Govan will receive an order for an additional two alternative landing ships logistic. These orders and announcements will create or secure several thousand jobs in UK shipyards and their ancillary industries throughout this country.

Over the next few years, orders will be placed for the follow-on batches of Astute class submarines and type-45 destroyers, and also for the detailed design and build of the future aircraft carriers. Our longer-term plans include the future surface combatant programme to replace the current type-22 and type-23 frigates and a variety of other vessels.

Iraq (Civilian Casualties)

29. Mr. Robathan: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what estimate he has made of the number of civilian casualties in Iraq following NATO air strikes since 1 January. [152726]

Mr. Hoon: There have been no NATO strikes on Iraq. British and American aircraft enforce the Iraqi no-fly

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zones under national auspices with the support of regional partners. The patrols are justified in international law as a legitimate response to prevent a grave humanitarian crisis.

If Saddam Hussein's air defence units attack our aircraft, coalition aircrew are authorised to respond in self-defence. They do so entirely in accordance with international law, attacking those Iraqi military facilities that pose an immediate and serious threat to their safety. All responses are proportionate to the threat. The risk of civilian casualties is always a major consideration during the very careful target selection process and only precision guided weapons are used where there is any risk of civilian casualties.

As the Ministry of Defence has no objective means of verifying Iraqi claims of civilian casualties I am not in a position to provide the information requested.

Saddam Hussein routinely claims that civilian casualties have been caused as a result of coalition activity over the no-fly zones. It is in his interests to do so and we have learned not to give too much credence to these allegations. We conduct careful battle damage assessment after every incident; this analysis demonstrates in the majority of cases that coalition weapons have hit their intended military target. The Iraqis regularly claim that there have been civilian casualties on days when the coalition has not even patrolled, let alone dropped any ordnance, and they routinely claim that civilians have been killed when the casualties were actually military personnel. Furthermore, Saddam Hussein has claimed the coalition was responsible for casualties that were in fact caused by Iraqi air defence weapons.

European Security and Defence Policy

31. Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent representations he has received concerning the European security and defence policy. [152728]

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Mr. Hoon: I have received a number of recent representations from hon. Members concerning the European security and defence policy. I have also received representations from members of the public.

Chinook Software

34. Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what revisions have been made to Chinook MKII FADEC software since June 1994. [152731]

Mr. Spellar: As I explained in my letter of 21 August 1999 to the hon. Member, the only revisions to the Chinook FADEC software since 1994 were the nine software changes introduced as part of the block 1 upgrade later in that year. Two of these changes were potentially the most significant. The first of these was the introduction of a discrete memory to store the position of the engine condition lever (ECL) which was designed to prevent an engine shut down. The second was the fitting of a software filter to screen the speed values of the engine compressor and power turbines, which was designed to prevent an engine run-up.

However, we know that an engine shut down or run up was not a factor in the Mull of Kintyre accident. Examination of the wreckage showed that both engines were working normally right up until impact, and thus faulty FADEC could not have caused this accident. Indeed, the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) concluded that there was no evidence of any technical malfunction that could possibly have caused the crash.

Defence Medical Services

35. Mr. Viggers: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the establishment is for consultants in general surgery, orthopaedic surgery, general medicine and anaesthetics in Defence Medical Services; and what percentage of these posts are filled. [152732]

Dr. Moonie: The number of consultants against the operational and retained task requirement and the percentage of posts filled as at 1 January 2001, is shown in the table.

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ConsultantsOperational and retained task requirementCurrent manning-- Consultants including those command and staff postsPercentage posts filled including consultants in command and staff appointments
General Surgeons442045
Orthopaedic Surgeons281139
General Physicians512243

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National Missile Defence

36. Mr. Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what discussions he has had with his counterparts in other EU countries on the planned US National Missile Defence. [152733]

Mr. Hoon: I regularly discuss the subject with European counterparts.

Multinational Defence Co-operation

37. Mr. Martyn Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on progress in multinational defence co-operation. [152734]

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Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on progress with multinational defence co-operation. [152708]

Mr. Hoon: Multinational defence co-operation is any arrangement where two or more nations work together to enhance military capability. A Ministry of Defence policy paper on multinational defence co-operation was published on 21 February, outlining the very good progress we are making in this important area of defence business. This document is available in the Library of the House.

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RAF Pilots

38. Mr. Brazier: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects fast jet pilot numbers in the RAF to reach establishment. [152735]

Mr. Spellar: Based on current forecasts, it will take some years for pilot numbers in the RAF to be in balance with the requirement. A range of measures have been taken to achieve this but these will inevitably take time to have an effect.

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